One of the most fascinating op-eds I have read appeared in the New York Times on Friday, July 31. It was by Guillermo del Toro, the director of "Pan's Labyrinth", and Chuck Hogan, who together authored the novel "The Strain" (I'm on a long waiting list at the library).
You will likely encounter a vampire today on cable television, or the big screen, or in the bookstore. They are everywhere these days. The authors linked the current cultural obsession with vampires to a craving for eternity in a fast-paced, high-tech society.
The vampire emphasizes what is eternal in us, a constant search for the fountain of youth. In a society that moves as fast as ours, where the moment of our lives is continuously vaporized by the "now", the promise of something everlasting, something truly eternal, holds a special allure.
Today's vampires continually morph their eternal, adaptable qualities into soap operas, wildly popular teen novels, sexual liberation, detective fiction, prime time television, and even energy drinks. They tap into our every need. The fast pace of technology accelerates their viral dispersion in our culture, swiftly exposing our yearning for a larger spiritual world.
So, what are some practical spiritual practices we can implement today to shore up our hope and satiate our desire for the eternal? The following are the best spiritual books of 2009 (so far). I'm working my way through them.
Through diverse approaches, drawing upon the wisdom and practices of
the world's religions, these titles explore the quest for meaning and
purpose, wholeness and healing, commitment and community, contemplation
and social activism. They are organized by major theme or spiritual practice covered in the book:
Claiming the Beatitudes: Nine Stories from a New Generation
by Anne Sutherland Howard (The Alban Institute, paperback) explores the
spiritual firepower of these passages from the Sermon on the Mount.
Living Fully, Dying Well: Reflecting on Death to Find Your Life's Meaning
by Edward W. Bastian and Tina L. Staley (Sounds True, hardcover) is a
sturdy and edifying collection of interspiritual writings and practices
about preparing for the end of life and beyond.
Holy Eros: Pathways to a Passionate God
by James D. Whitehead and Evelyn Eaton Whitehead (Orbis Books,
paperback) is a rich and compelling celebration of eros as a force
field that arouses us to a zest for life.
An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
by Barbara Brown Taylor (HarperOne, hardcover) is a field guide to
spiritual practices that can lend meaning and richness to our lives.
Be Happy: Release the Power of Happiness in YOU
by Robert Holden (Hay House, hardcover) is an enlightening and
entertaining survey of this most elusive quality that plays such a
predominant role in our lives.
Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine
by Huston Smith and Jeffrey Paine (HarperOne, hardcover) is the
creative, inspiring, edifying, and appealing memoir of the foremost
authority on the world's religions.
A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story
by Diana Butler Bass (HarperOne, hardcover) is a bold and visionary
work that reframes the history of Christianity using beliefs and
practices of the past to light the way into the future.
SUM: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman (Pantheon, hardcover) consists of wildly imaginative stories about human beings and the life beyond death.
The Joy of Appreciative Living: Your 28-Day Plan to Happiness in 3 Incredibly Easy Steps by Jacqueline Keim (Jeremy P. Tarcher/ Penguin, paperback) presents a multidimensional program to bring joy into your life.
Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone
by Eduardo Galeano (Nation Books, hardcover) presents more than 600
vignettes about underdogs, losers, and the persecuted in the sweep of
history over the past 5000 years.
The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship
by David Whyte (Riverhead Books, hardcover) offers an engaging and
imaginative examination of the triumphs and tragedies of human
Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness by Arnie Kozak (Wisdom Publications, paperback) sheds new light on this ancient and respected spiritual practice.
Praying For Peace Around the Globe by James McGinnis (Ligouri, paperback) contains an incisive and inspiring collection of prayers about peace and justice.
Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters — and How to Talk About It
by Krista Tippett (Viking, hardcover) is a top-drawer spiritual memoir
that refurnishes and expands our understanding and appreciation of
faith, religion, and spirituality.
A Conservationist Manifesto
by Scott Russell Sanders (Indiana University Press, paperback) is a
beautifully written conservation ethic which embraces frugality,
simplicity, beauty, community, and justice.
Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence by Anne D. LeClaire (HarperColins, hardcover) salutes the ample benefits of being in silence regularly.
Out of Darkness Into Light: Spiritual Guidance in the Qur'an with Reflections from Christian and Jewish Sources
by Jamal Rahman, Kathleen Schmitt Elias, and Ann Holmes Redding
(Morehouse Publishing, paperback) delivers a rich and illuminating look
at the similarities of the three Abrahamic faiths.
Making the Good Life Last: Four Keys to Sustainable Living
by Michael A. Schuler (Berrett-Koehler, paperback) argues for expanding
our view of sustainability to include not only the environment but also
economics, community, and relationships.
Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth
by David C. Korten (Berrett-Koehler, paperback) encourages us to move
beyond Wall Street to a new economic paradigm based on Main Street.
A Book of Wonders: Daily Reflections for Awakened Living
by Edward Hays (Forest of Peace, paperback) is an imaginative,
eclectic, and deeply spiritual primer on living a wonder-filled life
every day of the year.
Ubuntu: I in You and You in Me
by Michael Battle (Seabury Books, paperback) presents a solid and
substantial overview of the African concept of personhood, cooperative
living, and communal solidarity.